Sunday 10th December (Advent 2)
Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13 ; Isaiah 40 : 1- 11; 2 Peter 3 : 8 – 15a; Mark 1 : 1 – 8
The reflection for this week is by Local Preacher, Adam Biddlestone.
Over ten years ago, before moving to Bristol, I was asked to go and assess the service of a Local Preacher ‘on trial.’ He arrived and took the service dressed in jeans and a casual shirt. As part of the process, the assessor asks members of the congregation for their thoughts on the service. On this occasion, it was difficult to get people to talk about the content of the service, they were too focussed on how he was dressed, not in the way they expected a Preacher to dress.
I wonder what that congregation would have said about how John the Baptist dressed? The gospel account tells us, ‘he wore clothing made of camel’s hair with a belt around his waist.’ His appearance gave the crowd gathered at the River Jordan confidence because John, preaching a baptism of repentance and forgiveness and calling people to confess their sins and be baptized, was dressed like a Prophet, like Elijah (2 Kings 1 : 8).
Their confidence is strengthened as they recognise how John fulfils Isaiah’s prophecy of coming in the wilderness, calling people to prepare a way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:3 –5).
That confidence is demonstrated by the numbers who respond to his message, ‘the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.’ Whole communities responded to his message, individuals made themselves vulnerable, confessed their sins and were baptized as a sign of their repentance. More than this, it demonstrated their confidence in both John as the messenger, in God whose message he came to bring and in the one who will come, not to baptize you with water but with the Holy Spirit.
If we read on in chapter 1 of Mark, Jesus himself stands with them and he too is baptized. Advent is a season in itself, a time of preparation for Christmas. There are Advent carols to be sung, candles to be lit, liturgies to be shared, daily reading and prayers to be used in our personal devotions. So, let us not rush ahead in our worship to Christmas for there is the richness of Advent to be celebrated and enjoyed. How are you preparing for Christ’s birth, individually and as churches?
Lord, we thank you for the message of John the Baptist, calling us to prepare a way for the Lord.
Help us to prepare a way in our own heart _and lives for Christ to dwell among us and once prepared ourselves, to call others into the story of his birth. Amen.